Pre-surgery hospital wedding requires all hearts on deck

Pre-surgery hospital wedding requires all hearts on deck

LancasterOnline keeps publishing heartwarming feature stories about United Methodists in our conference (probably because we’re such heartwarming folks); and we keep posting links to them in our Website’s new Methodists Make News section (which now has its own page!). The latest story is about Ira and Shirley Bostic, a loving couple of seniors who’ve been together for 22 years but recently found a good reason to finally get married.

You know the part of the vows that calls for sticking together “in sickness and in health”? Well, they were married in the intensive care unit at Lancaster General Hospital the day before Ira underwent open heart surgery, following a recent heart attack. Clearly, the two wanted to be closer than just close to face this ordeal together.

Tim PattersonThat’s where the Rev. Tim Patterson, a United Methodist resident chaplain at the hospital, came to the rescue. Once they told him why, he said a liturgical “Prayer of Blessing” over them and then focused on how, when and where a hospital wedding could happen for these two.

The first immediate hurdle was to get a marriage license, and a hurdle it was. Because they couldn’t go apply for it in person, as was required, he had to help Shirley search for a county official somewhere who would actually come to where they were… in the hospital ICU. They found one who drove five hours to come administer a license at Ira’s bedside. Why?  “It’s like I tell my staff,” she explained, “we’re here to serve the people.”

“To do weddings prior to surgery is extremely unusual,” said Tim, who also serves as the pastor of New Holland UMC. “It was a one-week project, which was something crazy in itself.”

The real heroes were clearly the nursing staff. “They put in a lot of effort–both the unit manager and the ICU nurses–to make that wedding happen,” Tim recalled. He even worked with the dietary manager to waive Ira’s pre-operation diet so he could enjoy a wedding dinner.

TimPattersonPerformingICUWedding-VerticalAnd the wedding was supposed to happen in the hospital chapel; but when Ira suddenly had to have a pre-op procedure done, that was cancelled. The only solution was to do it in his ICU room, just hours before his heart operation. About 20 witnesses–family, friends and staff–congregated in there for the ceremony, as others listened nearby. It was all so touching, Tim recalled, that the floor manager nurse said, ”I wish I could pipe this into a speaker in every room.”

While counseling them before the wedding, the hospital chaplain offered an ideal message for two people finally getting married after being together for 22 years. “I told them that no matter how long you’ve been together, we believe by faith that getting married in God’s sight makes you a new creation.” It’s like turning mere water into the finest wine, as Jesus did at the wedding in Cana, he explained.

And when Tim’s issue of Time magazine arrived the day before the wedding, it bore another ideal message, which he later showed to Ira and Shirley. A story in it reported on a recent study which found that marriage can help prevent and heal heart disease.

Finally, speaking of hearts, Tim said a recent seminar leader encouraged him and his classmates to develop their own personal mission statements. “It helped me to frame my understanding of the work I do in a deeper way, especially as a chaplain,” he said. “I called myself a professional heart-whisperer. It means I listen to, engage and support people who come to me in a quest for wholeness, meaning and hope in their lives.”

Now that you’ve read what we learned from our interview with the Rev. Tim Patterson, check out Ira and Shirley Bostic’s sweet story, including how they met and started dating, plus more details about their wedding adventure and how they’re doing now. Just use the link we’ve provided in Methodists Make News.